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Slow down to save squirrels gathering nuts, drivers urged

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DRIVERS are being urged to slow down to avoid running over red squirrels as they enter a particularly vulnerable time.

A red squirrel captured mid flight Picture: SUE WARN. (26013525)

During the autumn, the animals can often be seen scampering across roads to search for nuts, seeds and other types of food.

According to the JSPCA, between June 2007 and March 2019, a total of 466 red squirrels were reported as being killed by road vehicles, with eight incidents in Waterworks Valley and seven each near the Silver Springs Nursing Home, the Lavender Farm, Jersey Zoo and Vallée des Vaux. Six each were reported on St Saviour’s Hill, near Millbrook Park and the La Haule Hill area.

Nina Cornish, research ecologist for the Growth, Housing and Environment Department, said: ‘Autumn is the best time to see red squirrels as there are fewer leaves on the trees, making them easier to spot as they gather food ahead of the winter. During this time of year squirrels are collecting seeds to feed on and store for the winter, so come to ground more often, predominantly in hedgerows, woodlands, parks and green lanes, hunting for nuts and seeds. This makes them particularly vulnerable to road traffic accidents.

‘The biggest threats to red squirrels locally areroad traffic accidents and disease. A partnership project between JSPCA and the [government] Natural Environment team has been running a monitoring programme where we encourage people who see ill or dead squirrels to report them or to take them to the Animals Shelter so they can be checked for disease.’

Ms Cornish added that rope bridges would only be installed as a last resort and that simpler solutions existed to ensure that fewer of the animals were run over.

‘If squirrels are getting knocked down repeatedly in one place it is important to work out what the squirrels are doing and how best to change their behaviour to act more safely. Squirrels often cross roads to enter gardens where people are feeding them. If feeding habits can be changed [often feed them on the other side of the road] the squirrels can be safer,’ she said. ‘In the first instance, natural hedging and tree planting should be considered. However, this is not always suitable and takes time to grow.’

Beverley Dallas-Chapman, from Jersey Trees for Life, said that traffic-calming measures such as signs should also be considered in the first instance.

‘What we have found is that squirrels will only use rope bridges if they are hidden by canopy – to protect them from birds of prey and other predators – otherwise they will just run across the road,’ she said.

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‘The general public do take notice of slow-down signs, especially when they have been designed by children.

‘We can go and have a look to see if there is anything we can do, but we are just a small charity. As a last resort, if we have to put a pole or a rope up it does cost us money, so it helps if the public donate to us.’

  • Any sick, injured or dead squirrels should be reported to the JSPCA on 724331. Along with sightings of live squirrels, they should also be recorded with the Jersey Biodiversity Centre using an app called iRecord available by visiting irecord.org.uk/app.
Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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